The Atlanta City Council last week voted 14-0 to award the Atlanta Eagle bar $1 million in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 clients unjustly arrested in a botched police raid last year.
On the night of Sept. 10, 2009, four-dozen police crashed the Underwear Night special event at the Atlanta Eagle, slamming patrons to the floor, using homophobic slurs, and arresting and detaining 62 people. Police targeted the gay bar on the pretext of illicit sex and drugs, allegations that were never proven.
The owner of the Eagle, Richard Ramey, went immediately on the offense against the raid, telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sept. 12, 2009, ”Our problem is with the way our customers were treated.”
Nick Koperski, a bar patron present at the time of the raid, was quoted as saying, ”I’m thinking, this is Stonewall. It’s like I stepped into the wrong decade.”
The Atlanta Police Department refused to cooperate with an investigation by the Atlanta Citizens Council.
Charges brought against employees and patrons either failed to win convictions, collapsed for lack of evidence, or were otherwise dismissed, according to a report by EDGE.
Last March, eight employees of the bar were found not guilty of trumped up charges by the Atlanta Police Department in a ruling handed down in Municipal Court. Investigations into the raid found that the Atlanta Police Department did not have a warrant to raid the bar on the night in question. Mandatory revisions to police procedures will be carried out in response to the settlement.
The vindication of the Atlanta Eagle stands in sharp contrast to the outcome of the Fort Worth Police Department’s infamous raid on the Rainbow Lounge just months before the Atlanta debacle.
Unlike the Atlanta outcome, however, the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued a sufficient apology (in our opinion) or formally admitted any wrongdoing in the illicit raid on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, nor has the action of the FWPD ever been deemed wrong by an outside investigation.
This has been in spite of the public action disciplining officers of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for their part in the raid, and a formal apology issued by the executive of the TABC.
What exempted the FWPD from disciplinary actions similar to the TABC?
Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.
While there have been laudable actions in response to the Rainbow Lounge raid, such as the establishment of a police liaison with the local LGBT community, and transgender protections added to municipal protection statutes, honesty about the motives and motivators behind the Fort Worth raid remain unspoken and unacknowledged.
While we are glad the city of Fort Worth dropped charges against patrons charged in the arrests the night of the raid, including public intoxication and groping, the harm done by the raid in Cowtown has not been acknowledged by the powers that be, and therefore the LGBTQ community, and the individual Texans directly wronged remain unjustified.
Justice for Atlanta, but how about for Fort Worth?
We guess the mayor of Fort Worth has more control over the courts, the press, and the gay establishment in North Texas than the mayor of Atlanta.
A good thing? You be the judge.